Russian kindergarten children dress up as tanks adorned with a ‘Z’ for Victory Day in social media video – as Putin prepares to hold huge parade’ in Moscow tomorrow despite 25,000 of his soldiers dying in Ukraine and new offensive stalling

  • Footage showed dozens of children parading through kindergarten’s courtyard
  • They were all dressed in Second World War-era military uniforms and vehicles
  • Leading the group was one boy dressed as a Russian tank with the letter ‘Z’
  • The letter has become a key propaganda symbol in Russia since invasion began
  • It came ahead of huge Victory Day parades that are set to be held tomorrow 
  • Annual parades mark the 1945 surrender of Nazi Germany in World War Two

Russian kindergarten children dressed up in a variety of pro-Russian military outfits ahead of the country’s Victory Day parade, a video on social media has shown.

Leading the group of pupils was one young boy dressed as a Russian tank with a white ‘Z’ symbol emblazoned on the front – a common feature of Moscow’s military vehicles currently involved in fighting in Ukraine.

The boy was shown in military uniform and a leather helmet while a Russian flag flew on the camouflaged cardboard tank fashioned around him.

Other children were shown dressed as fighter jets, soldiers and army medics. At least two more were also dressed as tanks, decorated with red Soviet stars.

Their teachers also wore similar Soviet-style military costumes as the class paraded through the courtroom of the kindergarten.

It was not immediately clear where in Russia the kindergarten was. 

The white ‘Z’ has become a key propaganda symbol in Russia since Vladimir Putin launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

It is expected that the symbol will feature prominently in Victory Day parades to be held across Russia tomorrow, with the largest rolling through Moscow.

Some analysts had predicted that Putin wanted to be in a position where he could declare some form of victory in Ukraine on May 9. 

However, some estimates suggest that as many as 25,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in fighting so far as Moscow’s armies were met with fierce resistance.

Putin is now expected by some to use the event to officially declare war on Ukraine, or at least announce a smaller victory in cities such as Mariupol – where Ukrainian fighters are currently making a last stand against Putin’s forces.


Leading the group of pupils was one young boy dressed as a Russian tank with a white ‘Z’ symbol emblazoned on the front (pictured in still video grabs) – a common feature of Moscow’s military vehicles currently fighting in Ukraine

Victory Day on May 9 is one of Russia’s most important national events – a remembrance of the enormous sacrifices made by the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany. Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine sustained appalling loss of life.

Ukraine still formally marks Victory Day on May 9, but as it has turned westward to Europe since 2014, it has instituted a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation on May 8 when France, Britain and the United States mark ‘Victory in Europe Day’.

Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender came into force at 11:01 p.m. on May 8, 1945, which was already May 9 in Moscow. Russians call the war the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45. 

At a rehearsal event on Saturday, nuclear missiles rolled through Moscow’s Red Square in a chilling warning to the West from Putin.

The thermonuclear RS-24 Yars ballistic missile – which experts believe can can carry up to 10 warheads – was seen taking pride and joy as it was driven past rows of armed guards.

The intercontinental weapon, which weighs 49.6 tonnes, can travel up to 24,500km/hr and is capable of hitting targets up to 12,000km away – meaning it could strike London or New York within minutes. 

Pictured: Two children are shown dressed as Second World War-era fighter jets with the Red Star of the Soviet air force emblazoned on the wings


Pictured left: Another child is seen dressed as a tank, this time with the Soviet red star. Right: Other Russian children are seen dressed as army medics

The weapon of mass destruction was followed closely by several Iskander-M missile launchers during a rehearsal for the annual event, which is set to take place on Monday and which could see British fighters paraded as prisoners of war. 

Jubilant soldiers and servicewomen were seen marching outside the Kremlin today in preparation for the celebration as they waved Russian flags, performed salutes and smiled at the cameras.

Eight MiG-29 fighters also flew past in a ‘Z’ formation – the insignia used by Putin’s military as a symbol of its military action in Ukraine, which critics have likened to the swastika used by the Nazis.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that evil had returned to Ukraine but that Kyiv would prevail in an emotional address as Europe marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Moscow’s invasion, which has killed thousands and displaced millions, ended 77 years of peace, he said on Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. Ukraine fought alongside Russia as part of the Soviet Union in World War Two.

His video address, filmed in front of charred Ukrainian apartment blocks with footage of Russian missile strikes, comes a day before Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin marks the Soviet victory with a vast military parade.

A Russian RS-24 Yars ballistic missile rolls in Red Square during a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, May 7, 2022

Russian officers march during a rehearsal of the Victory Day parade on May 7, 2022 in Moscow

Russian aircraft fly over Red Square during a rehearsal of the Victory Day parade on May 7

‘Darkness has returned to Ukraine decades after World War Two… The evil has returned,’ Zelensky said. ‘In a different form, under different slogans, but for the same purpose.’

‘No evil can escape responsibility, it cannot hide in a bunker,’ he said. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler spent the last days of his life in a bunker in Berlin where he committed suicide in the final days of the war.

Zelensky did not name Putin throughout his video address, but used vivid language to express his horror at the devastation. 

‘A bloody re-enactment of Nazism has been staged. A fanatical imitation of this regime. Its ideas, actions, words and symbols,’ he said.

Moscow itself calls its actions a ‘special operation’ to disarm Ukraine and rid it of what Russia calls ‘Nazis’ and anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West.

Ukraine and the West say that Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression and dismiss the rhetoric about Nazis as propaganda.

‘We will overcome everything. And we know this for sure, because our military and all our people are descendants of those who overcame Nazism,’ Zelensky said.

Ukraine is not holding any public events for either May 8 or May 9 this year for fear of shelling. Some cities have a curfew in place from Sunday evening to the morning of May 10.  

The white ‘Z’ (pictured on a Russian tank on May 5) has become a key propaganda symbol in Russia since Vladimir Putin launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24

Russian service members drive a tank along a street during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia May 4, 2022

Zelensky’s video was published as Ukraine’s Armed Forces engaged in bitter fighting along the eastern front amid Russian assaults in Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv.

Western military analysts this morning said a Ukrainian counter-offensive was advancing around Kharkiv, but added that Putin’s forces made minor gains in Luhansk, an area where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.

Kharkiv, which was the first Soviet capital in Ukraine, remained a key target of Russian shelling, the Ukrainian military said yesterday.

But the Ukrainian army today declared it had made progress around the hotly contested city, recapturing five villages and part of a sixth.

Against that backdrop, Ukrainian fighters are making a final stand to prevent a complete takeover of Mariupol.

Securing the strategically important Sea of Azov port that would give Moscow a land bridge to the Crimea Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine during a 2014 invasion. It would also provide Putin with a victory to boast about during tomorrow’s Victory Day celebrations in Moscow. 

A view shows an explosion at a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 8, 2022

Pictured: Smoke rises from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel works as Ukrainian soldiers make their final stand in the city against Putin’s invading forces

The bombardment of the Azovstal steelworks – Ukraine’s last holdout – intensified in recent days despite a temporary ceasefire to allow civilians inside to escape.  

Russia forces have used mortars, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from sea to target the facility and eradicate the small contingent of Ukrainian soldiers still defending the plant.

The Ukrainian government has called on international organisations to help evacuate the fighters, who have repeatedly refused to surrender despite enduring constant bombings and suffering many casualties.

But Putin’s troops have struggled to make significant gains elsewhere nearly two and a half months into a ruinous war that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 10 million people. 

The Russian leader’s ‘special military operation’ has left the country in the grip of tough Western sanctions, and has raised fears of a wider confrontation with the West.

But Russia is now gearing up for lavish celebrations to mark its Victory Day tomorrow, as Saturday’s final dress rehearsal for the parade in Moscow saw nuclear missiles being wheeled through Red Square.

Russian MiG-29SMT jet fighters forming the symbol ‘Z’ in support of Russian military action in Ukraine, fly over central Moscow during the general rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade on May 7, 2022

The intercontinental weapon, which weighs 49.6 tonnes, can travel up to 24,500km/hr and is capable of hitting targets up to 12,000km away – meaning it could strike London or New York within minutes. 

The weapon of mass destruction was followed closely by several Iskander-M missile launchers, as men and women marched outside the Kremlin dressed in military garb, waving Russian flags and performing salutes.

Eight MiG-29 fighters also flew past in a ‘Z’ formation – the insignia used by Putin’s military as a symbol of its military action in Ukraine, which critics have likened to the swastika used by the Nazis.

The rehearsal unfolded as the Ukraine-based Centre for Defence Strategies said that 500 captured fighters supporting Ukraine could be ‘forced to go through Red Square for cameras’, according to The Times.

Three British fighters could be among the 500 after Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured by Russian forces in Mariupol last month as they fought alongside Ukrainian defenders. 

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